Holly Herndon

A Paradisiacal Gesture

“Nostalgia doesn’t interest me. Instead, I look for fresh ways of expressing new ideas.”

Holly Herndon recently moved to Berlin from San Francisco, where she is working towards a doctorate in composition at Stanford University. She is seeking new modes of expression relevant to contemporary and future worlds. Her modern music compositions cross genres and borders; she is also known as a live electronic music performer and producer and has opened for major acts like Radiohead. Herndon has expanded the contemporary music field by experimenting with novel forms, focusing on the future of human interaction in an increasingly digitalized world.

This digital future forms the inspiration for her work. How can we develop the emotions and language needed to deal with the epochal change brought on by digitization? Through her music, Herndon aims to create environments in which the physical and the digital can coexist. She rejects dystopian visions of the future, and instead carves out a space for the human voice, even as this voice increasingly is expected to compete with its digitalized rivals. Herndon herself describes her music as “a rupture, a paradisiacal gesture.” She thus neatly summarizes the dual mission that characterizes her work—a break with the past that also seeks to define an innovative and progressive vision of what’s to come.

Holly Herndon in performance

Herndon is inspired by people who build worlds and can imagine entirely new paradigms. She is uninterested in offering a set rulebook to prospective applicants, and prefers to find a mentee who is carving out a unique voice in his or her field. She hopes to learn from her mentee and broaden her own body of knowledge by working with a mentee from outside the United States and Europe, the regions with which she is already most familiar. The Forecast tandem will stage an exchange of ideas in which she and her mentee can learn from the new realms of creativity they encounter.

Following the 2015 release of Platform, Herndon is working on her third studio album, in which she collaborates with a vocal ensemble to explore potential group dynamics and polyphonic vocal processing. The composer’s work underscores the need for fresh fantasies and strategic collective action, and she often teams up with her partner, artist and technologist Mathew Dryhurst.

Self Interview: Holly Herndon on Forecast